The Shortcomings of Liberals, Identity Politics, and Intersectionality

23 05 2017

The full essay can be viewed here at  Below is a one page summation.  


I’ve gone through my own personal experimentation with liberalism’s identity-centered calling cards. When you’re trans, Queer, disabled, breaking free of public school indoctrination, and just beginning to understand class relations in the world around you, liberal identity politics offer power–the power to demand attention, to shut down conversation, to center yourself, and to be untouchable in your politics, along the same identity criminal code used to reduce Obama’s critics to “racists,” and Clinton’s to “sexists.”


How long must we ignore the plight of us all exploited in this global cancer called capitalism before we name the failures of liberal politics and try something different instead? It is not enough to simply outgrow these politics and hope others do as well. If leftists are to engage with liberals, we must be willing to name and challenge the toxicity, absurdity, and de-radical nature of their politics.


Essentially, white privilege works to create a false consciousness of superiority in difference, dissuading “white” workers from working class unity. Today it seems likewise accurate to observe that “white privilege” shuts down dialogue of antiracist or other identity sectarian movements including or even working with white-passing and some mixed race folks.


Intersectionality failed to do more than congratulate a scholarly activist class on doing their assigned readings. And the more structural-leaning liberal side failed to offer any social change whose parameters are not dictated at the end of the day by capitalist conformity and use to the empire. Normalization and assimilation are preferred.


So where geography or economic liberty make it impossible for one to contribute to their own liberation in this way, the movement is paralyzed between one side demanding that the marginalized lead and the other pushing for neoliberal concessions. Any work towards solidarity or on issues that de-center whatever identity class(es) is en vogue are promptly dismissed as de facto prioritization of the over-privileged, and a re-centering oncis feelings, her feelings, white feelings, etc.


What is anyone to do? Answer: no one knows. If you don’t show up to every poorly planned collegiate protest, your silence is violence. If you show up and dare to speak to the media or any of the other attendees scowling at you from a safe space away, your privilege is showing. Privilege is critical. We’re supposed to be analyzing it, coming to terms with it, learning about it, really, really thinking especially about it.


We’re supposed to be more inclusive, but not in a way that demographically restructures the leadership of our group specifically to be inclusive, because that’s tokenizing. We need to be in community with marginalized groups, but not in a way that seems like we’re eager to work with them just to be in community with them.


That liberal identity politics and call-out culture both focus on disproportionate treatment rather than structural oppression exposes the policing and reformism at their root. Call-out culture mirrors the cultural of criminal punishment it has not yet escaped from.


Focusing our ire on people who receive privilege instead of people who dole it out is a losing strategy for ending oppression.





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